Feature

International Day Of Persons With Disabilities – December 3, 2015

Adam Peer

As educators, most of us have taught a student with a disability. We are well versed in and aware of the range and types of accommodations that are made for students every day. We also work with colleagues who have disabilities. Many of these colleagues are not aware that they too can ask for accommodations in the workplace.

In the winter of 2015, the provincial Executive approved a recommendation from the Disability Issues Standing Committee that ETFO annually commemorate the Day of Persons with Disabilities.

In the ETFO Reference Book, Disability Policy 21 states “that disability be defined as an interaction between characteristics of the individual and characteristics of the natural, built, cultural, social, technology and communication environment, which prevent individuals living with impairments and/or disabled individuals (e.g., cognitive, intellectual, medical condition/illness, physical, psychological, sensory, and psychiatric survivors/consumers) from full and equal participation in society.”  In Canada approximately ten per cent of the population is believed to have a disability. This is 3.2 million people. Most of these people are not born with a disability, but acquire them throughout their lives. Some disabilities are visible and others are not.

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 47/3 that proclaimed December 3 of each year as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The day was proclaimed to recognize and promote an understanding of disability issues, dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to increase awareness of and education about the benefits of the integration of people with disabilities into every aspect of Canadian society. It is also a day to recognize and celebrate the contributions of persons with disabilities around the world.

Each year, the United Nations chooses a theme for the day. The theme provides a framework for considering how people with disabilities are excluded from society by promoting the removal of barriers wherever they are – the physical environment, information and communications technology, societal assumptions and attitudes.

In 2014, the theme was Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology. Not all people have access to technology and the higher standard of living it allows. With an estimated one billion people worldwide living with a disability, and 80 per cent of them living in developing countries, access to technology is key to helping realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities.

The theme for 2015 is Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities.

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On December 3rd, we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We’ve come a long way but people with disabilities still face barriers to inclusion in the workplace, in schools and in our society. Many aspects of disability result directly from the barriers presented by the design of our society rather than being reflective of the ability of an individual to contribute to society.